Friday, May 4, 2012

Another Suicidal Student Loan Debtor: "I feel like I've lost all hope. I have been suicidal for a while now."

If you are suicidal, please call: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

This is neither easy to read nor easy to write about, but it is important to acknowledge the voices of those who are in such low places that they would rather be dead than alive. They see their lives as ruined. They have little energy. They have no hope. We need to remind them that there are groups fighting for them, and if they have the strength they too can join with others in this battle.

I'm receiving more desperate notes again, and I want them to be heard loud and clear. They should not be hidden in the comments - they deserve to have full light and total exposure, because people need to be aware of how punishment in the form of debt bondage destroys a person's soul and will to live.

Check out the Occupy Student Loan Debt Campaign

This woman's voice moved me deeply. In a response to questions I asked in an earlier post, here's what she had to say:

(Author's note: I have reformatted and omitted some of her remarks - she answered numerical questions)

[I owe] almost $200,000.00 and my husband owes almost $200,000.00. Together, [it's] almost $400,000.00. If we were in full repayment, this would cost us almost $4,000 a month in minimum payments. This exceeds our take-home pay. And no, we are not doctors.
I have a B.A. in Sociology and an M.A. in Educational Psychology. My husband has a B.S. and an M.S. Both schools that I attended were state universities, in-state. One of which was Arizona State, whose in-state tuition rivals that of for-profit schools and is rising. I am not employed. I'm looking for work. We live off of my husband's salary. So no, I am not employed and no, we are not able to pay on our student loans with one salary.
 We rent an apartment on the other side of the country from our family. We're trying to move back home so that we can at least try to make our minimum payments, but despite aggressive attempts to find jobs in their area for the last 10 months, we've been unable to and are still stuck paying about $1,700 a month for our one-bedroom apartment on the east coast. And this is a 'good deal.'

I've developed insomnia, anxiety and depression. I cannot get out of bed in the morning without physical pain because I'm so depressed. I am on medication that only slightly helps take the edge off, but that has been difficult to afford. Even when it's sunny outside, I have such a dark cloud over me that it feels like it's dark. I don't enjoy anything anymore. Even good news is painful to me because I'm sad that I can't enjoy it. I feel like I've lost all hope. I have been suicidal for a while now. The only thing that keeps me living is that I don't want my poor husband to have to face his debt without my emotional support.

I feel like a failure. I just turned 30 today and I don't see having children as an option at any point in my life. My husband is 40 - he's never had children or a house, either. I'm afraid to answer the door, check the mail or look at my E-mail because I'm panicked that there will be bad news. I feel like I'm developing agoraphobia. I fear for my future - if I default and the banks can go after my retirement, bank accounts and social security, what will happen to me when I'm an elderly person? Will I have to live on the streets?

I am often angry. I'm angry I was scammed, angry that I've lost control of my life and angry that I'm a modern-day slave. There are a whole lot of people who do bad things - they steal, kill and spend irresponsibly. They all get second chances, but I do not because I went to college. I am angry because evil people have been allowed to lobby Congress and evil leaders of this country allowed themselves to be tempted and failed to protect students. Everything I went to school for is now out of my reach because I went to school.

Oh, and before you judge me, I got stuck with my ex-husband's loans, so my debt includes student debt for two people... not to mention the usurous [sic] interest that can quickly double, triple, or quadruple a loan in no time. My husband also went to flight school which is why his are so high. He graduated only to find out that major airlines in today's world hire pilots at $25,000 a year.

What has this world come to? Why even try anymore? 
 The question about what the world has come to is a good one. It's completely out of whack, isn't it? We have been left to our own devices, and yet we're still buried in debt, so self-reliance is damned hard, if not impossible, to truly achieve. Think about this - you might be a self-sufficient person. When there are economic downturns of this nature, you learn quickly how to make due with less, save things, strengthen support networks, and so forth. This makes you feel stronger and proud of your self-reliance. But when you stop to think about all the debt hanging over your head, and if one thing goes wrong, you're suddenly on a fast track to defaulter's hell, you realize that that self-sufficiency has been stolen from you too. Well, just as I said yesterday, we don't like the fact that our futures have been stolen from us, and we don't like that we can't feel entirely self-sufficient. We're here to get that back too. Oh, and did I mention that we want our damned dignity back as well?

We're here to collect a lot of things that rightfully belong to us.

Statue Depicting Dignity
Cesare Ripa's Allegory of Dignity


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. Many are in the same position, with no realistic solution. It may help to remember that this isn't your fault. You didn't create this, you didn't perpetuate this.

It also may help to remember that you are not your credit score. Your character has nothing to do with what you owe. Never let anybody tell you differently.

We need to start a student loan support group. Cryn? Wanna add something else to your plate?

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous 1:40 PM - that's a really touching response, and you are absolutely right. We didn't create this mess. It's not our fault.

How would you envision this support group?

Anonymous said...

can totally feel this woman's pain. specially cause I can relate to her in a lot of ways. Like I mentioned to you before, I really wanted to die, the only thing that kept me from ending myself was the fact that I didn't want to leave my fiance alone. I'm turning 31 next month and i still can't see myself having kids or even owning a home. I live south of the border and luckley i don't pay rent, but i am dead scared of ever moving back to the U.S due to this debt along with the cost of living in california, it just seems impossible to me. But it's true like mentioned to you before, I have hope now thanks to support groups like this one.

Anonymous said...

No idea how a support group would look. I tend to be an idea person, sorry. Not so great with organization. But we are connecting in different ways (occupy, your blog, twitter, facebook). Maybe a safe vent space? A closed group? Or even local meetups?

Anonymous said...

I feel very sad for the woman above. My story is similar to hers though it seems as if there is hope for me. If I saw this woman and her husband, I probably would give each of them a hug. I have roughly 36k in federal loans which are currently on an income-based repayment plan in which I pay $0 a month. Even if I wanted to pay just a little bit towards my loans, I doubt that I could afford it. I used to be severely depressed about my student loans but now I just don’t seem to care. As long as IBR is in place, my payments will always be affordable and my life won’t be that bad. I also have two judgments against me from a car accident I was in (I owe roughly 20k), in which there was no insurance on the car (my Dad failed to mention to me that he didn’t pay the insurance). One day in the not so distant future, I will declare bankruptcy on the judgments and they will go away. Besides, what could my creditors get from me anyway? I have relatively few possessions and no job. Every day I tell myself that my life is not that bad because people like the above would probably kill to have my life in that my student loan payments will always be affordable and I can declare bankruptcy on the judgments against me. I could go on and on. I would really like to talk to others about their student loan and other debt issues.

Anonymous said...

Today was an especially low day for me; I spent it pacing and panicking. My dark thoughts came back into my mind again and they're really starting to scare me. One of my loans is coming out of deferment this month and I'm terrified. Through my tears, I decided to come back to the blog to see if there was anything new, and I found my story posted. Thank you, Cryn. I feel touched and in a strange way, loved by a fellow human being. Thank you to those of you who responded. I've seen so many negative comments online (in opposition to student loan relief) from people who just don't understand, so I was surprised to see some support. I still feel rotten, but it feels as if someone has lit a candle in my dark room - so that's good at least.

I think we need the support group. If there's a way to open it up to good people who won't say abusive things to those who are already down, I think we should go for it. It might give us all some peace. Maybe we can find a way to band together somehow and fight back like you said in the post, Cryn.

If there's something I can do to help with that, please let me know. I don't exactly have a job anyway and it might help me divert my energy toward something positive.

And to the person living south of the border: it'd be great to learn more details regarding how to go about doing that (if you're willing to share). Exile seems to be my only living option.

Agrippina said...

I know exactly how this woman feels. I'm afraid to leave home, I've cut off most of my friends because I'm afraid they'll ask me about my problems, and I'm too ashamed to explain it. I either obsess over the mail, anticipating bad news, or I can't even bring myself to look for weeks -- and this is due entirely to student loans and medical bills. I have no other debt. And, before this economy, I was also stupid enough to believe things would work out, and I had a family. Now, I feel like I'm a dark cloud over my kids lives and they would be better off without me; without being exposed to the poor choices I've made and they now have to suffer for. I don't know what to do except to end it. And when I look around all I see are soulless bastards judging me with one eye and sizing me up trying to figure out how to make money off of my suffering with the other -- and these are ones who are lauded as the pillars of our society. I. WANT. OUT.

Anonymous said...

Another day, another battle. I am fighting to stay upon this earth. God, it seems like there is no way out. I have a Direct Student Loan handled by ACS. They have run me through the flames of hell. They made me recertify 2 times within 6 months even though my income did not change. They changed my payment in less than 6 months and are very rude and cruel when you tell them that their rate does not reflect the letter they sent me or the IBR calculator.Honestly, if I had to do all over again, I would have never gone to school! I am literally sick on a daily basis with no hope in site.I fear going to the mail box. How can millionaires on Wallstreet get bailouts but educated grad's who can't make beyond 8 an hour can't even get a helping hand? 25 years of dealing with ACS is goin to be too much.I literally do not want to dwell in this earth.I feel like I am going to snap at any moment.I will be driving and think to myself, "Just go into a cement wall and be done with hit." Lord, I hope the President does something about student loans. The millionaires we bailed out are now 3 times richer than before! They did not even have a need like we have. My student loans prevented me from getting a car, house, or credit on my own. The student loans blocked me from being able to get city jobs and low wage jobs because all credit is checked and I have too many loans that ballooned because of Sallie Mae. I just want out

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Anonymous said...

I attended NYU's Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service from 2006-2008. I come from a middle class family lacking financial savvy, and when NYU sent me the Citibank loan paperwork in my financial aid package, I was quick to sign up and my parents were quick to co-sign. We all ignorantly assumed that the education would be worth it, and I'd out-earn whatever my payments might be.

I was 22 then, graduated and began paying my loans at 24, and I am now 28. I have $120k+ in student loans, half of them government loans at a fixed rate, and half of them a variable rate private loan with Citibank. I pay $820 a month in student loan minimum payments (my net monthly income is $2,600), and both my federal and private loans are on a 30 year repayment plan. I live in San Diego and make enough to pay my loans and other expenses, though I do not have anything left over to put towards savings. I pay my bills on time, though I did have to postpone my payments from November-January of this year because I was unemployed. I have no credit card debt and live on a cash basis only (I will honestly say, debt is the scariest thing in my book and I now avoid it at any expense - I actually lived in a garage for a year to avoid having to use credit cards!).

What I am writing for is hope. I live in constant regret and embarrassment for my naïveté. After working and living on my own for four years, I now know what a poor and uninformed decision I made (I honestly think my parents still don't get it - they have their own problems after loosing their home and my dad loosing his job). The stress of not knowing if/when my interest rates will rise is devastating. The thought of enduring this stress for thirty more years, or the thought of my interest rates rising to the point that I am unable to make my monthly payments, the thought of all of the money I spend repaying debt rather than investing in a home or saving for my retirement - these thoughts constantly haunt me regardless of the counseling I've pursued or the anti-depressants I've been prescribed. I feel like I have an anchor tied to my feet.

I am considering pursuing a private loan consolidation in hopes that somewhere, there might be a bank who would take my $60k+ of private variable rate loans and refinance them at a low fixed rate. I do not know who else to ask - does anyone have any recommendations for someone I can speak to who will not take advantage of me? Or am I kidding myself that I could find an agreeable consolidation? If I am, does anyone have any advice that might offer some hope? Some hope that some how, I might be able to save for retirement? That somehow, I might be able to find a fixed rate and at least know what these payments will be for the life of the loan? That somehow, one day, if I just keep going, that I might pay off my student loan debt? I unfortunately do not have wealthy relatives. I unfortunately am making $45,000 and don't see that increasing greatly. Most of what I read and research and what banks tell me is about how dire the situation is. It is difficult to keep putting one foot in front of the other on a daily basis without some hope. On a daily basis, I pray that I will die so that this will be over; being dead would be a relief compared to a life without hope.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anon Sept 29 -

I am sorry that you are feeling hopeless, but please do not give up.

You are young and you have your entire life ahead of you. We do not know what could happen in the future, and I understand how overwhelming the debt can be when it comes to every day life. It sounds like you are doing everything in your power to stay on top of it, and I applaud you for that. It's not easy. As I have said to others who feel suicidal and severely depressed, something positive for indentured educated citizens could happen tomorrow. Admittedly, the chances are slim, but we never know. So, please do not give up.

If you are feeling this low, I urge you to reach out to people you trust (family, friends, if you're religious - a rabbi, pastor, etc.).

Do not be ashamed to admit that you are overwhelmed - people who care about you will be understanding, as so many Americans are struggling to say above water. If you don't feel comfortable reaching out to people you know, please pick up the phone and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:1-800-273-8255.

I am going to post your note for others to read. You are NOT alone. I realize that might not be much consolation, but there are millions of people who are struggling or unable to pay back their loans. That's why the system must be radically changed.

Hang in there.


Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous Sept. 29 - may I have permission to post your comment? Let me know. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

I feel everyone's pain. After getting my MA I found out that my student loans ballooned thanks to Sallie Mar upping my interest rates and capitalizing constantly. This is just too much to bear. I tried suicide not intentionally but rather hoping it would come by taking alcohol and certain RX drugs. I am 25 have a Master's from a prestigious school and I work at Walmart catering to the 1%. This isn't life. This is hell.

Student loan help said...

I suppose we require the morally supportive network. Provided that there's a path to open it like a champ to great individuals who won't say harsh things to those who are as of now down, I suppose we might as well let it all out. It may give all of us some peace.

Anonymous said...

Whatever you do, don't call a Suicide line. They just call the cops to arrest/commit you, and then you have a psychiatric/criminal record that follows you for LIFE!

Anonymous said...

Did you really just tell someone not to call the suicide not helping

Anonymous said...

I am frustrated and overwhelmed by debt also. Suicide is not the option. If not for yourself for others we need to find a different path. I am just shy of 50. I have accrued over 180 k in student debt as I switched careers when the economy went belly up and I lost my job 7 years ago. I successfully consolidated loans but I will accrue more than 6 k this year alone on a loan that is defeated. No spouse to help. Moving in with friends and family not really an option. Giving up would solve my financial problems but the damage it would do to the people I love and know would be unforgivable. Not sure what the answer is but let's look for one together.

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Anonymous said...

I am right in there with the rest of you. I have a student loan that was around 24K. Now, after many years of being in default and nothing really happening, they are after me for 74K. They are threatening to garnish my wages. I've been severely depressed. I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in April before the threat of garnishment and had the kidney and tumor removed. Every 3 months, I have to have CT scans to make sure no cancer has spread. I just had my first scan performed and was was actually very sad to find out that I didn't have cancer. I was wanting to have cancer so I could sign out and never worry or stress again...........
I'm in my late 40's now and do not want to go back to eating ramen noodle soups to survive.

Anonymous said...

To the person who warned about calling the National Suicide Lifeline - he/she is absolutely right (except you aren't "arrested" and you don't end up with a criminal record). They're not there to talk to you; their goal is to assess imminent risk, and if they feel it is there, you WILL have the cops at your door very quickly. Hospitalization is NOT the answer - and I'm saying this as a former mental health professional with many years of experience.

I, too, consider suicide on a daily basis due to my student loans. I initially borrowed around $80K for my graduate degrees (masters and doctorate). I was confident I would be able to pay them back over time. Without going into details, nothing went as planned, despite my best efforts. Currently, my loans are over $260,000 and they just keep growing. I'm now over 50, and unable to pay.

I also have the added nightmare of ACS handling the bulk of my loans. It is the worst, most incompetent, and most unethical company I've ever dealt with. All that does is add to my stress and hopelessness.

My depression is largely fueled by this hellish burden of debt. I stopped dating long ago because I felt unworthy, and couldn't bear the thought of finding love only to have my debt destroy it. It's not fair to anyone to bring my debt into a relationship. So, I've never gotten married, and now too old to have children (not that I could afford them). I rent; I have zero savings. I'm behind on taxes (another nightmare). I now do freelance work to scrape by, but my depression makes it very hard to be productive.

I don't sleep well. I have no health coverage so I am always worried about getting sick or injured.

This isn't a life. My death won't devastate anyone. My life no longer has any value. I, too, have read and heard the harsh statements from those who say, "well, you borrowed the money, so this is YOUR fault". So, apparently I (and others in my shoes) deserve a hellish existence with no life, no future, because we made the mistake of taking a risk and investing in ourselves years ago? Yet, those who run up credit card debt or buy houses and cars they can't afford can't declare bankruptcy and get a fresh start?

I see no solution. I've lost all hope of a future that's worth living.

As for waiting one more day or one more week because maybe, just maybe, something might change... I've been playing that game for 15+ years. NOTHING has gotten better. NOTHING has changed. In fact, my life has continuously gotten worse and less and less bearable.

I didn't borrow this money lightly. I thought long and hard about it, talked to others, felt I was taking a very reasonable risk. I didn't have a crystal ball - stupid me. And I chose a profession to HELP others; which I did, for many years.

But there is no one who can help me. Short of winning the lottery (which I don't play) or some miracle (I've yet to experience one of those in my life) - death seems to be the only solution anymore. My parents are dead and I don't have a significant other or children, so my death won't matter to anyone.